Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

When Home Isn’t Quite the Right Word: The Seeds of my Wanderlust


The pilot warns us to buckle up because we are on final approach, and I glance out of the window. This view, this is why I bagged a window seat. Ascending from the ripples of the Atlantic, swathed around its midriff by a drift of white clouds is Tenerife. My island. My home. From its core rises El Teide, darkly against ocean and clouds, guarding its terrain, chiding me for my absence.

I have to wonder sometimes why I roam. This island fulfils so many of my needs, not all, but then, I’ve come to the conclusion that nowhere ever can; or at least that my chances of finding my personal Shangri-La are diminishing with time. Yet the need to roam is in my blood, because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel this way. Another month and my feet will itch again. I know it.

Wanderlust fulfilled in the 70s in the South of France

Wanderlust fulfilled in the 70s in the South of France

I’ve tried to trace my longing back. Is it something I acquired or something with which I was born? I’m inclined to think the latter. There was a time when I blamed television. We got our first television set in 1953 for two reasons. One: Blackpool Football Club was playing in the FA Cup Final and Two: Queen Elizabeth ll’s Coronation was in June. That June I was six and a half years old, and long after the fun of dressing up as a princess, pretending to ride in a golden carriage had worn off, another image was still imprinted on my brain, a picture of a huge, snow-covered mountain towering into the blue heavens, and I wanted to see it in real life. The Coronation coincided with the first summit of Everest, and my imagination was on fire.

Over the next few years television fuelled the fire, Cisco Kid galloping free across the US west, David Attenborough in search of dragons, Flipper apparently happily surfing the warm waters of Florida, the team from Sea Quest exploring the ocean, Armand and Michaela Dennis getting up close with the exotic animals of Africa. I acted out scenes and invented more amongst the long grasses of the half of my granddad’s market garden that he didn’t cultivate. I think I ran just a little bit wild.

First coin in the fountain in 1967

First coin in the fountain in 1967

Third coin tossed to the gods of Trevi in 2004

Third coin tossed to the gods of Trevi in 2004

Not only TV but books egged me on Anne of Green Gables called me to Canada, the Swiss Family Robinson to live on a desert island in a tree house (still a dream that one!), Little Women hinted at life in the US (and left me with an undying curiosity about the American Civil War). At one point I decided to become a missionary, and have no doubt that had more to do with wanting to see Africa than any deep religious convictions; at another time, by contrast and inspired by our annual visit to Blackpool Tower Circus, I decided to run away and join a travelling show –the gypsy lifestyle had lots of appeal.

Dream come true carriage ride in Rome in 1967

Dream come true carriage ride in Rome in 1967

Into my teen years I watched TV and movies as much for the locations as for the plots or stars. In my mind I traveled to Paris and Rome with Audrey Hepburn, to the mountains of Austria with Julie Andrews, to Russia with Omar Sharif and to just about every state in the US. When my first chance to step onto foreign soil came I was ready.

Me and my several petticoats on the left

Me and my several petticoats on the left

That opportunity came by way of a school exchange to Solingen in the north of Germany. My parents must have scrimped and saved to let me go, and there was no money for a new suitcase, so I traveled with a heavy, old, brown leather one, which had been my dad’s. Strapped to the outside was my tennis racket. This girl was going to seize every opportunity that presented itself on this trip, and wasn’t going to miss a game of tennis because she didn’t have a racket! A little under an hour into the journey I realized my folly as I struggled over the bridge which connected platforms on Preston station, but happily this was back in the day when gentlemen still came to the rescue of a girl in distress, and it happened again as I plodded along the platform of a Tube station to change stations for the Dover train and the exotic. The time in Germany passed in a swirl of new tastes, scents, customs and sights. Travel was everything I dreamed it would be, despite turning green apparently (I have that on good authority and I certainly felt it!) on the Ostend ferry, and feeling gauche in my layered petticoats (all the rage in England, but not so much in Germany).

Solo to Germany at 18 and rocking the Jackie Kennedy look

Solo to Germany at 18 and rocking the Jackie Kennedy look

When it came to my first solo trip at 18 I was more than ready, I’d already lived it in my head over and over again. I was just on the cusp of when we used to “dress” to travel, so I bought a Jackie Kennedy hat and a neat suit, and thought I was the bee’s knees. I also missed my first opportunity to get bumped to first class because the flight was overbooked, and I was offered a flight to Cologne instead of Düsseldorf to where I was booked. What was I thinking???’

Emigrating came naturally to me. I read blogs about the pitfalls and the angsting and I don’t get it. It was simply long, long-term travel. Something I’ve learned about myself of late though it this. I am not a nomad. I can travel for months without feeling homesick, but there comes a point when I crave the familiar. I’m not sure that homesick is the right word, it’s a need for tranquillity and for people, rather than for place, but one has to store ones possession somewhere, and so I come back to the Canary Islands, and when I see the mountain rising from the seas it feels something like home.

The ultimate dream come true, riding the Orient Express which remains one of my best travel memories

The ultimate dream come true, riding the Orient Express which remains one of my best travel memories

Travel has changed one heck of a lot in the intervening years, even in the years since I became an “expat.” Now we dress for comfort, travel like sardines, at least on short haul and if we can’t afford better. I’ve stayed in five star hotels and grotty hostels. I’ve traveled light and I’ve traveled with the “kitchen sink.” I have yet to do a long boat trip, but I’ve done a couple in small Cessna. I’ve traveled with my family, with friends and solo. I’ve seen so much more of the world than my mom ever did, but already my sons have been to places I still yearn to see. Eating lunch in a sunny square in France the other day with a dear friend, one with whom I’d shared that first trip years ago, we mused about how we’d seen ourselves evolving back then. Would we have predicted how this moment in time would find us – both expats, and her journey having been even more exotic than mine? I realized then that the journey will never be done. There are so very many places still to see, experiences to share, tales to tell. I still haven’t seen Everest for a start.

The Orient Express took us to Venice. A never-to-be-forgotten trip.

The Orient Express took us to Venice. A never-to-be-forgotten trip 

Author: IslandMomma

Aging with passion; travelling with curiosity; exploring islandlife, and trying to keep fit and healthy.

16 thoughts on “When Home Isn’t Quite the Right Word: The Seeds of my Wanderlust

  1. I just love this post, Linda. The photos, the perspectives — you’ve put into words a lot of what I feel about traveling and coming home, too. I like having my home base as the place that’s always there for me to kick back and get organized, but at the same time I need to know that I’ll be leaving it again — as soon as possible. You really were rocking that Jackie Kennedy look, by the way.

    • Aww Thank you, Cathy. I think a part of me always regretted not running away to join the circus, and it’s taken me a while & 3 attempts to realize that I am not a permanent nomad! Yet, within days of being back I’m dreaming again. Now I know that’s ok since I am not alone in this! It’s like realizing that though I love the country it’s ok to love cities too. I don’t have to make a choice! Hmmm that you for the compliment. She was a heroine of mine.

  2. We must be sisters. You’ve caused me to look back at my own desire to wander. I feel like my post is already written. Will link back to your inspiration when it comes out. Love you story, spirit and sense of wonder and adventure. Oh yea, and the Jackie look too better than the petticoats. Great post.

  3. Thank you Gaelyn! Do you ever dream about finding the perfect place? Sometimes I think that’s what I do, but I’m not convinced. Plus – you seem to have it all organized! Yeah those petticoats were a pain, they probably filled that old suitcase!

  4. loved this post Linda for many reasons. thoughts back to early t.v. and how it inspired our play. we were both tom boys eh? toy guns and cowboy play for us. now my GD can watch so many good t.v. prog and together we watch marvelous documentaries teaching her about the world. imagine if we had had those documentaries to fuel our busy imaginations! and yet we are different because my travels have been holidays not travels. my choices have been tempered by compromising destinations almost every trip. and because of family commitments I actually see some of the places I would love to see becoming no longer possible. you feel the world is waiting and I see it closing down for me!
    which is why I do so enjoy your writings. keep em coming.

  5. Awww Christine it isn’t closing. There is always a way if you want something enough! But I am very happy that you enjoyed this. Did you see the pics of my mom I put on my FB page for you?

  6. yes, I loved them and decided to tweet about them. what I said more or less was, firstly, tiny handbag I mean TINY. liked the black and white best because that was how i mostly remember your mum, totally fabulous and also much clearer quality of photo., those early colour shots more hazy. we should make a pact to get hats and gloves on and do a stroll in Stanley Park! wouldn’t know where to buy white gloves these day, may have to ask Her Maj where she gets hers from LOL

  7. I loved seeing all your ‘original instagramy’ old pics on facebook lately Linda and glad to see they’ve made it into a post! There’s a lot to be said for TV inspiring travel stirrings, as well as music. What I’ve found interesting is that when you picture somewhere from a film and you finally go there, even after you get back you still have the same, original image, even if your trip there didn’t reflect your original image that much. Anyway, an enjoyably reflective and nostalgic post! 🙂

    • Thank you very much for those kind words, Jools! Means a lot coming from you!

      You are so right about that! First place which comes to mind is Nice. Perhaps because I’ve just finished a book about the history of the Riviera. Hated it first time I went, but still go back, even though I realize how spoiled it is!!!

  8. So, you build an outfit round the gloves! funny the things we keep.

  9. Great post. Loved the old photos.

  10. Books, TV shows, cartoons, other people’s tales…It’s amazing how we create a kaleidoscope of what we imagine the world to look like and how we imagine it will be when we get there…

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